Accessibility at UCM
The Unitarian Church of Montpelier is a historic structure, the main portion of which was built in 1864. It is not fully accessible by modern standards, but we are working toward that goal. We have an Accessibility Committee which has been working for four years, and which issued a survey and report in 2014. Since then we have been working to carry out the recommendations in that report.
More recently, a task force which is working on long range facilities planning has included full accessibility in its goals.
We’ve made a lot of progress, but know we have a long way to go. Here’s a summary of our current status:
Accessible Entrance and Parking
The accessible entrance is on the School Street side, between Main and Elm Street. This isn’t our “back door” but our kitchen door, leading right into the middle of UCM life. One accessible parking place is conveniently placed near this entrance. This spot does ot have the extra wide “van accessible” landing area. On Sunday mornings, we also reserve several city on-street parking places near this entrance.
Our ramp, landing, entrance stairs, and the door thresholds have been repaired and updated. We now also have a new power door to this entrance.
Photo: Picture of School Street Entrance: Caption: “Accessible Parking at left, repaired ramp, and our new automatic entry door.”
Levers, Railings, and Signage
All or almost all of the door knobs have been replaced with levers, thresholds have been improved, and new conforming railings have been added throughout the building. We have good signs throughout to direct folks throughout the building.
The lower floor contains the kitchen, some offices, classrooms, and our Vestry, which is a major gathering place in the church before and after services, and at many other times.
Bathroom: Our biggest recent project has been the construction of a fully accessible bathroom off of the Vestry.
Church offices and the religious school nursery are on this lower floor and are accessible.
The main sanctuary is on the second floor. This can be reached by staircases with good railings.
Elevette: We also have an “Elevette” that leads from the Vestry to the Sanctuary lever, located on the Main Street end of the building. The floor of this lift is 34” x 46”. This works for many users with walkers or compact wheelchairs, but not for the larger wheelchairs that would fit in a more modern unit. In addition, the church has chosen to staff the elevette during services, and at other times such as concerts. One of our important projects in the future will be to add a more modern elevator or lift that meets current standard, and can be operated by anyone.
**Post-July 2023 Flood Update: Please note that the elevette motor was destroyed in the flood, and we will be working on replacing the entire unit. For now, there is not a lift available for transport to the second floor sanctuary.**
Other areas of the second floor cannot be reached without negotiating stairs. The Chancel – the “stage” is up three stairs from the Sanctuary; it can be difficult for some people with mobility issues to perform at concerts, preach, or sing in the choir.
Meeting rooms and classrooms on this floor are now accessed by stairs with railings.
Until we can make permanent improvements, we have to make ad hoc accommodations for mobility impaired people who wish to participate in any activities in these areas.